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Do eco-friendly cleaning products matter?

Are steam cleaners good for green cleaning?

The organic food sector is booming. But is it just as important to consider green cleaning products as well as eco-friendly food?

We’re becoming more aware of our food: what we eat, how it’s produced and what’s added to it. Concern for the planet is now a big part of our changing eating habits; the UK organic sector is now worth a whopping £1.95 billion! (That’s according the the Soil Association’s 2016 Organic Market Report.)

So much for what we put into our bodies – but what about the home cleaning products we touch, use and breathe in?

How green is your house?

It’s less publicised that some of these, from washing-up liquid to furniture polish, can contain all manner of (possibly harmful) chemicals. How much of that ‘fresh’ post-clean smell could actually be a mixture of unknown fumes and toxins?

According to the EU Ecolabel board, products with disinfecting or anti-bacterial properties generally have a high aquatic toxicity. (This means they harm fish and other marine life). Not only that, they often last unnaturally long because they kill the bacteria that would otherwise break them down.

If a cleaner claims it can instantly strip years of ground-in dirt and grease, what could it do to your body – and the Earth?

Green cleaning brands

There are, however, new brands that are focussed on caring for the environment: Ecover, Method, Bio-D and Simply, to name a few. These companies try to use as many natural ingredients as possible and ensure their products will biodegrade quickly and fully.

You might expect green cleaning products to be expensive, but that’s often not the case. For example, ASDA has an own-brand grapefruit & kiwi washing-up liquid that promises to be better for both the planet and your wallet.

I like to think, if it’s good for the planet, it should also be good for you.

Are there other alternatives?

If you have babies and pets scuttling around close to your feet, you might want to avoid squirting cleaning products on the floor. That’s in case they are licked up – yes, by either.

While a splash of water and a good scrub usually cleans up most spills and dirt quite well, steam cleaners are a popular alternative for quickly removing grease. It’s claimed they are also good for killing bacteria and allergens – including dust mites, although we don’t test for this. Best of all, you don’t have to use any extra products – the combined power of temperature and pressure does the job just as well.

Some steam cleaners have a separate built-in tank for detergent, but it’s down to you whether you use it. For more advice on how to buy the best handheld steam cleaner, steam mop or cylinder steam cleaner, take a look at our guide.

Do you insist on green cleaning, or are you happy with conventional chemical products? Let us know in the comments.


I am concerned about what we discharge down our drains, that ends up in the general watery environment. Whether chemical run-off from farmland, or micro plastic beads in home cleaning products, they damage the ecosystem. Forget organic – there are far more damaging materials in far greater quantities that need controlling, I would suggest.


Once again its a case of– its the publics fault when nobody notices or maybe I should say nobody wants to talk about the elephant in the room –Monsanto – bee killer extraordinary with its neonicotinoid insecticides , but hold on Monsanto are blaming mites . Now there,s a strange thing – I spent a lot of time studying nature when young and that included bees , even learned all the different types including the ones that dont sting if you catch them in your hand . The world was full of bees in my time but strange in the last 20 years the populations have dropped drastically this summer saw a massive drop in bees in my garden . Nobody is going to tell me those mites werent around for 50 years or more but they never killed the bees , certainly not in the large numbers now and remember I grew up with factory chimneys belching fumes and smog where you could only see a few feet in front of you but strangely again it didnt seem to effect the bees . Now Monsanto are growing crops that can give you cancer glyphosate herbicides and in 2017 will be exporting soya beans into Europe and the UK tolerant to glyphosate and dicamba herbicides their use of dicamba over the top of Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soyabeans remains in the late stage of the Environmental Protection Agency review and is not currently approved by the EPA. Now when greenfly killer was banned and greenfly have a field day in your garden despite all the so called eco cures which dont amount to a hill of beans in reality why is it if you are a massive multinational you can do what the public are banned from doing –one word –money ! Read up on the birth defects of dicamba and high cancer rates in the families of food growers . Why put the onus on the little man ?


You could put some of the onus on those who use these products. The NFU are in denial on the devastating effects of neonicotinoids. They prefer to use them until it is crystal clear that bees – and other pollinators – are harmed. Presumably that will be demonstrated to the NFU’s satisfaction by extinction.


Various elephants in the room notwithstanding (I too am fed up with getting it in the neck sometimes, when I am surrounded by far, far, far worse culprits), I hope that governments all over the world will someday grow a pair and disallow the manufacturing of cleaning (and other) products known to be harmful to the environment. Until then I will buy what I can afford and is easily available to me – if environmentally friendly so much the better.


In terms of the things we use in our homes, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find liquid hand-wash that is not ‘anti-bacterial’, and even some toothpaste now has plastic micro-beads in it. I first encountered micro-beads some years ago in an industrial hand-cleansing gel and it did improve the efficacy of the product but little did I know about their harmful environmental consequences. Now they are turning up in all sorts of unnecessary places and I am pleased to note that the government has announced its intention to outlaw them by the end of 2017. Some companies had already said that they would work towards phasing them out by 2020 – well, thankfully the government is going to make them do so much sooner and I am hopeful that declining sales, as people realise how bad these products are, will bring about a much earlier demise. Why can’t they stop production tomorrow [or as soon as they have used up their stocks of ingredients and packaging] and demonstrate their environmental responsibility credentials?

We have bought some Method foaming hand-wash to try out; each bottle is a bit more expensive than alternatives but the foaming dispense seems to make it more economical in use and there is no mention of anti- bacterial properties. It seems to be just as good at washing hands and is more pleasant to use than liquids. Other brands exist [e.g. A&J London] but are not readily found in supermarkets.

We don’t use a lot of washing-up liquid as we use the dishwasher most of the time but it would be interesting to know how Method products compare with the Which? Best Buys in terms of performance. In the past Ecover has not been rated highly and is relatively expensive. I am interested, however, in what dishwasher tabs contain because they must be fairly powerful [or Fairy powerful, even] to make a good job of up to three days’ crockery, cutlery, cooking pans and utensils – although doing one big dish-wash [ignoring energy consumption] is possibly less environmentally harmful than doing several bowlfulls with a conventional W-Up liquid.

Vivien Mitchell says:
4 September 2016

Does anyone have any information on the Simply range mentioned in this article please? I have Googled, but cannot find anything.


I was wondering about that myself and came to the conclusion that it was a misprint for the ‘Simple’ range of kind-to-the-skin toiletry products. However, some at least of those contain anti-bacterial formulations which are not kind to the environment. I have ‘reported’ your comment so that Which? can look into it quickly.


Hi Vivien and John, thanks for your comments. This is the Simply range that was referred to in the article: http://www.simplywashing.com. Please let me know if you have any other questions! 🙂